How I'm attempting to fight back against body image issues.
According to my mom, I was a big baby when I was born. I clocked in at about 9 pounds…and I was 4 weeks early. From birth to about age 15, I was definitely on the bigger side. I was never too overweight, but let’s just say that when I went back to school shopping for a new pair of jeans they had to be a “husky” fit.
Because of my larger than normal size, I grew to be very self conscious of my weight and self-appearance. I was terrified to take my shirt off during warmer weather. I remember getting into a fight with the rest of my family because I was hot but wouldn’t cool down by taking my shirt off. When I was younger, I was always known for jumping right into the pool. While a lot of people attributed this to my love of swimming, it was really so I could hide myself in the water.
For a long time, people close to me would say that I wasn’t really that heavy, and for the most part they were right. I wasn’t that big, but I felt that big.
Now, the summer between my 8th grade of school and my freshman year of high school I grew almost a complete foot. I make the almost-but-not-completely-true joke that I’ve been the same weight since age 15, I’ve just grown from 5’5” to 6’3”. In reality, I’ve gained some more weight over that time period, too but the point is the same.
While the ratio of my height to my weight has changed, my mental perception has not. I have and will likely always see myself as someone who has more weight to lose. I’ll always notice when a shirt doesn’t fit quite right. I’ll always attack myself for my physical appearance. I have what some fitness bloggers call Former Fat Boy Syndrome.
With the rise of social media, and Instagram in particular, I’ve recently found myself increasingly bombarded with images of pixel-perfect bodies. On one hand I find them aspirational, on the other I find them unattainable.
I let these images influence my self-talk in a way that’s extremely negative. Looking at myself in a mirror, all I can focus on are areas where I can improve. The dangerous thing is, these negative thoughts have spread to other aspects of my appearance; initially focused on my weight it’s evolved to how clothes fit, how white my teeth are, etc. But like a cancer, it’s also affecting my self-confidence in general. I second guess the things I say, and I worry about what people think of me.
While I’m affected emotionally, there are also physical outcomes as well. I have a huge sweet tooth. I often have trouble controlling myself around things like Peanut M&Ms and birthday cake. I normally just avoid buying things at the grocery store, but if they’re around I struggle.
I’m writing all of this, and I don’t really have a great conclusion, nor do I have a happy ending about how I was able to overcome this. Instead, I’m writing this as a way of processing through this for myself and to share with others who might be going through something similar. It’s easy to feel embarrassed, ashamed or alone. In reality, you should feel none of those things.
The important thing to remember is that while there is some personal responsibility, it’s not even close to all your fault. There’s a handful of genetics at play, a society that pushes unrealistic standards of beauty, and a corporate food manufacturing scheme that doesn’t have your best interests in mind.
What’s helped me is to frame my fight as an act of resistance. Each time I make a choice for healthier food I’m fighting back against big food corporations. Every time I feel bad about how I look in the mirror I remind myself of my body’s amazing ability: to climb stairs, to bike 20 miles or to dance like a goofy idiot at a wedding. In doing so, I loosen the grip our culture has over my self-image and self-worth.
For everyone going through something similar, we got this 💪🏼